By Lynda Jensen
DASSEL, MN The Dassel City Council met in a special meeting Thursday to approve the upgrade of 800 mhz radios in Meeker County for its city services as part of a larger package of Meeker County emergency services.
Currently, the county and City of Dassel use 150 mgz radios, which use a larger bandwidth than 800 mhz.
The FCC has mandated that emergency crews and other civil services must use a smaller bandwidth; something that can be accomplished by upgrading to 800 mhz radios.
The 800 mhz radios travel through buildings better, Celander told the council.
These radios are used by the firefighters, for example, as a means to communicate while they are inside burning buildings with each other and the outside emergency crews, explained Randy Celander, communications specialist for Meeker County.
“I would not put my firefighters in a building without proper equipment,” commented Dassel Fire Chief Dale Grochow, who attended the meeting Monday to support the upgrade to 800 mhz. “I highly recommend we do this,” he added.
To this end, Meeker County officials asked the City of Dassel to upgrade city emergency service radios to 800 mhz; with a bit of urgency, since the county became aware of a discount offered by the manufacturer for the radios.
Meeker County Administrator Paul Virnig was present at the council meeting last Monday, along with several other interested parties from the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office and fire department, to discuss the subject at length.
Virnig said the county became aware of a sizable discount offered through Motorola for the equipment for 800 mhz, which is required by the government to be upgraded by a certain time frame. The discount gives the county and cities a short time frame to work within.
Celandar emphasized the following reasons for the county to convert to 800 mhz:
• emergency crews and other responders would be able to talk with other neighboring counties. Otherwise, they would be locked out of this communication.
The counties surrounding Meeker are switching over to the new radios and will soon leave the county behind. “Meeker County will soon be an island.” Celander said.
• the console equipment at the dispatch center in Litchfield needs to be replaced, Celander said. This center is used for all fire and rescue in the county, ambulances, county highway crews, law enforcement and public works.
• the government is requiring emergency responders to use a narrower bandwith, in order to free up bandwith for other, unrelated uses,
• Meeker County has interference problems with Black River Falls, Wisc. This is expensive to fix, he added.
During the meeting Monday, the council asked numerous questions about the cost, pertaining to training (which is included, although other miscellaneous costs are not), and the like; not wanting to be pressed into a sudden decision. It set the special meeting Thursday to discuss the issue further, for this reason.
Nevertheless, the council opted Thursday to go with fewer radios than originally thought (22 instead of 27; with seven mobile radios), since more could be bought later.
It was also decided that the public works department didn’t need the new radios because they use a different system that is related to cell phones that works better for their purposes.
This reduced the total cost from $98,000 to $78,000.
The county has agreed to include this amount in its total upgrade package, which means that the city can finance the amount over four years, with a low interest rate.
Celander commented that several other cities in the county have committed to the upgrade. The State Patrol went to 800 mhz radios Nov. 20, it was noted.